Maps Maps Maps Maps Maps Maps Maps Maps Maps Maps. That’s right! This issue is all about, the one, the only, the incomparable….Maps! So, if you are a Maps fan (like I am, and like I’m sure 90% of you out there are), you’re going to have a great time with this issue.
As the story starts off, Maps is in the school infirmary with her brother Kyle, who was just brought back by Olive after a harrowing encounter with Two-Face and The Penguin left him injured. What plays out is an exchange between Maps and Olive that I literally never thought I’d see:
Throughout the course of Gotham Academy, Maps has always been insanely loyal to Olive. Even when Olive broke up with Kyle, the two stayed friends. Which, in and of itself, seemed odd to me. But hey, I guess it wasn’t that bad a break up. Maps’ reaction was even more surprising because just last issue she said this: “There’s nothing in the world that can make me stop fighting for my best friend.” So yeah, going from that statement to, we can’t be friends, was a real shocker. Seeing as how we are only one part away from the series finale, I guess the creative team decided they needed to up the emotional ante and drama. Now, instead of the story just being about how the team can defeat Amity Arkham and save Olive, it will most likely also teeter on whether or not Maps deems Olive worthy of getting saved. And that’s much more interesting since it combines both internal and external conflict.
Before passing out, Kyle tells the team that the secret to beating Amity Arkham might be locked away in a vault at Wayne Manor.
After that serious opening, it’s time to get back to the fun. And what could be more fun than a Maps/Damian Wayne team up? So much of what we see here harkens back to their encounter in Gotham Academy #7. The cover is a nod to events from issue #7 (see interesting facts). The way she licks his hand is similar to the way she wiped her nose on his hand in issue #7. And the way she falls in love with the Wayne arsenal is reminiscent to the way she fantasized about the grapple gun from issue #7. So yeah, it’s great!
The Wayne Manor scenes also contain a bunch of awesome references to a slew of equally awesome things. Now, maybe it’s silly to applaud references. After all, one could argue that a story that uses too many references is merely trying to cash in on nostalgia and create a false representation of awesomeness by tapping into things that we already love. Hence, not earning it on its own accord. There is that argument, but in my everyday life, I know that I make references to things all the time. It’s simply part of the way I speak. So, to me, to see other people doing the same thing is a real joy. Most of the time, people don’t even know I’m making these references. But when someone catches one, in that single moment, I feel like we’ve shared something that no amount of conversation could compare too. We understand that we’ve shared similar experiences. And that, quite possibly because of those experiences, we share a similar view on the world around us.
References aside, both those self-referential and those outside the confines of the Gotham Academy universe, it’s still great fun to see Maps and Damian interacting with one another again. He plays the straight man and she plays the goof. A lot of the time, Damian’s condescending attitude can have an averse effect on those around him. But with Maps, she takes it all in stride, and it’s wonderful to see someone that acts as a counter to Damian’s rigidness. It’s also great that Maps gets this opportunity to revel in the things she really likes. Since she just had a breakdown of sorts at the beginning of this story, it’s simply nice to see it hasn’t had a permanent effect on her endearingly quirky and upbeat personality.
- What gives? In the last issue, Pomeline and Colton had captured Shark girl and Raven boy. I get that Pom and Colton might have been in a hurry to see Kyle, but did they really just let them go?!? That’s pretty stupid.
- We’ve seen her before. When Pomeline and Colton found The Book of Gotham in that chamber under the Academy, there was a skeleton in a jester suit next to it. What do you want to bet those are the skeletal remains of one of Amity Arkham’s relatives?
- At this point, I’m not entirely sure why Batman/Robin would turn the case over to Maps. I mean, certainly this is when they should step in, right?
- At the end of this issue, Maps puts on a superhero masks. I immediately started thinking about Harper Row and Duke Thomas. How those two characters were set up to be heroes, and whether we liked them or not, that is what they were going to become. But with Maps, I never thought it would come to this. So, it actually feels exciting. I’d also say that Row and Thomas always felt kind of forced to me. Like, they didn’t earn it. They just became what they were because it was written that way. But with Maps, I feel like it’s a natural progression. So when it finally happens, you’re actually rooting for her. It doesn’t hurt matters either that she is likeable.
- This is, once again, a reference to the 1989 Batman Movie. Here is the clip for those that want to watch it. I say “once again”, because this isn’t the first time Gotham Academy has referenced this very scene. If you look back at my review for Gotham Academy #7, you’ll see that other elements from that 1989 scene played out between Maps and Damian before now. In that sense, not only is this cover a reference to the Keaton film, but it’s also a playful reference to Gotham Academy itself. Kind of like a reminder of Gotham Academy’s greatest hits, so to speak.
- Well, that’s was an unexpected reference. In case you aren’t familiar, that’s from The Legend of Zelda. A video game for The Nintendo Entertainment System that came out in 1986.
- Another quote from the 1989 Batman movie. These are the lines uttered by Alexander Knox when Vicki Vale and he stumble upon the armory display inside of Wayne Manor.
- Just like the Zelda reference, this one also took me by surprise. It’s not word for word, but I’m guessing it was inspired by this line form Zorro.
- You’re a big fan of Maps Mizoguchi.
- You like references.
- You think Damian and Maps make a wonderful team.
The Ballad of Olive Silverlock part three is all about Maps. So naturally, you’re going to have a blast with this installment. But it’s not just Maps being Maps that makes this issue so great. It’s her wonderful and hilarious reunion with Damian Wayne that really made this issue stand out for me. Besides the antics, this story also give Maps some serious emotional baggage going into the finale, making the coming climax much more interesting than a simple case of saving Olive. Now, because of Maps’ change of heart, we are left wondering whether or not Maps even think Olive is worthy of being saved….
SCORE: 9 / 10